The Mission


The Mission” is a group-building activity in which participants are tasked with “the Mission”, to design the inner system of a spaceship that will travel for 6,000 years. It creates a fun and exciting group creative process in which participants can collectively learn how to start building sustainable systems. It brings up issues of ecological and social sustainability, and challenges participants to think long-term and in the big picture of human survival and core needs.

Activity Type



1.5-2.5 hours

Learning Outcomes

  • To get a sense of the building blocks needed for human survival and the complex systems that are needed to support life, both on the ship, but also on our planet

  • To work together as a group to solve the problem presented by the activity (team-building skills)

  • To creatively come up with possible ways of long-term (sustainable) human habitation


Required Materials and Tools:

  • Large paper sheets for drawing the spaceship

  • Markers, colored pencils, crayons of different colors.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Break participants into groups of ideally 5-7 people

  2. Give the participants the following directions: “You have been appointed by the Planetarian Council to plan and partake in the greatest adventure in the history of humankind: You shall equip a giant spaceship to make a journey of a range previously unheard of. These are the conditions:

    1. The journey will last 6000 years

    2. You don’t have to think about the ships propulsion or the external hull.

    3. You have access to solar energy during the whole journey.

    4. No more than 100 persons are allowed aboard the ship at the same time. What will you bring?”

  3. Initially, ask each person to brainstorm individually for 10 minutes to list everything they can imagine they would bring.

  4. Then have them take 20 minutes to discuss this with their group, not labeling anything as “wrong” but just giving the space to creatively share their ideas, and why they decided to bring each object. Spend some minutes listening to each group and make comments as necessary to help them start thinking collectively.

  5. The next step is to give each group a large paper and let them select drawing supplies (markers, etc) and have them start creating the interior design for the space ship collectively. They need to find a way to work together, listen to one another, and make decisions on what they will include in the ship. They should have at least 45 minutes to do this, including drawing the ship.

  6. Spend time with each group to ask supportive and critical questions to stimulate the thinking process. Avoid giving solutions and detailed answers. Be prepared that participants will go through specific stages of thinking - see the attached support file below. Give space to all these stages.

  7. Ask groups to present their designs, approximately 10 minutes per group. Each group can present the directions with a poster, PowerPoint presentation or in another attractive way to create the story.

Support Files

The stages of the thinking process in the Mission


  • What are the main lessons that this game provided to you and the other players?

  • What was it like to work together as a group to create the spaceship design? Easy? Fun? Hard?

  • What did you learn from working together?

  • What did you learn about sustainable design, systems and complexity?

Instructions for Submission

Submit a written reflection about the group process and upload 1 photo of the best design, so that your peers can give you feedback. Instructions on how to upload photos and how to submit things in Moodle can be found here: Instructions on Submission&Uploading

Instructions for Assessment

Provide feedback to at least one participant that has done this activity. Instructions on providing feedback can be found here: Instructions on Feedback


Creative Commons - ySI4R Content Team (courtesy of Wolfgang Brunner)

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